Legislative Update - January 2008

January 22, 2008

The Farm Bill: Right now versions of the Farm Bill have passed both the House and the Senate. Neither is all that we would have hoped. Now, a conference committee is working to hammer out the differences to come up with a final bill for passage. President Bush has promised to veto both chambers’ version of the bill, in part because neither makes changes to the unfair commodity-payment system as urged by Episcopalians and other advocates. This veto threat gives important leverage to reform proponents. Watch your inbox for EPPN messages as we will have more alerts on the continuing saga of the Farm Bill this spring and how you can continue to make a difference.

MDGs: Senators Barack Obama (D-IL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) have introduced the Global Poverty Act (S.2433) requiring the President to develop and implement a comprehensive policy to cut extreme global poverty in half by 2015 through aid, trade, debt relief, and coordination with the international community, all key elements of MDG 8. Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA) and Spencer Bachus (R-AL) sponsored the House version of the bill (H.R. 1302), which passed the House in September.

Additionally, in February the House Financial Services Committee plans to mark up the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Debt Cancellation (H.R. 2634). The bill would begin the process of debt cancellation for poor countries that need it to meet the MDGs. A vote in the full House is expected to follow shortly after markup in the Committee. A Senate companion (S.2166) has strong bipartisan support, including co-sponsorship from half of the key Foreign Relations Committee. Visit thomas.loc.gov to see if your lawmakers are co-sponsors of H.R. 2634 and S. 2166. If not, urge them to sign on.

SCHIP: After two vetoes, the President signed SCHIP reauthorization that was weaker than what we felt was necessary but the best that could be done … for now.

Energy: President Bush also signed an Energy Bill that takes some significant steps toward greater fuel economy.

Nuclear Weapons: Despite the administration's determination to develop new nuclear weapons, you helped convince Congress to deny all funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead and for a major new "bomplex" plant that would have helped build new nuclear warheads.

Iran: The release of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran in December encouraged Members of Congress to call on the Bush administration to pursue sustained, direct, unconditional diplomacy with Iran.

Middle East: We continue to work with our partners, Churches for Middle East Peace and the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative, to press the Administration on follow-up to the Annapolis conference on the Israeli/Palestinian situation.

Torture: The House passed the Intelligence Authorization bill, which includes a provision that would require government agencies and their contractors to abide by the restrictions in the Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations during interrogations, including forbidding the CIA from using water-boarding and other severe interrogation techniques on detainees.

On the Campaign Trail: With the ONE Campaign, Episcopalians have been busy engaging the candidates to significantly raise the profile of global development issues. Forty thousand letters were sent to Iowa caucus-goers, asking them to learn about and consider global poverty issues as they prepared to choose candidates, and ONE ads are running in the early caucus/primary states. Learn more about the ONE Vote program here.